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201  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 150,000 dead on: April 01, 2014, 10:23:31 AM

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that 150,344 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011. According to the group, the figure includes 51,212 civilians, 37,781 opposition fighters, and 58,480 regime forces. On Monday, Syrian government forces recaptured Observatory 45, a strategic position in the regime stronghold of Latakia province, countering recent opposition gains in the region.
202  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Ryan's plan to eliminate deficit in 10 years on: April 01, 2014, 10:14:00 AM
Paul Ryan Unveils GOP Plan to Balance Budget in 10 Years
Budget Blueprint Proposes Changes to Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, Other Programs
By Damian Paletta and Kristina Peterson
April 1, 2014 10:30 a.m. ET

Paul Ryan speaks at the CPAC Conference last month in National Harbor, Maryland. Getty Images

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) Tuesday proposed eliminating the government's budget deficit in 10 years through major changes to Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps and other programs—and took the controversial step of counting in assumptions on how the plan would spur economic growth.

The fiscal year 2015 budget blueprint is a largely political document that establishes House Republicans' commitment to eliminating the deficit as a top priority. Mr. Ryan says it would cut $5.1 trillion in projected spending over a decade, with 40% of that coming from simply repealing the Affordable Care Act.

To replicate a point of pride in his budget blueprint last year — namely balancing the federal budget in 10 years--Mr. Ryan this year has opted to formally incorporate an estimated economic boost that he says would result from reducing the deficit, in turn lowering interest rates and spurring growth.

"The greater economic output that stems from a large deficit-reduction package would have a sizable impact on the federal budget," Mr. Ryan writes in his plan.

For example, Mr. Ryan estimates that in 2024, the government under his plan would spend $4.995 trillion and bring in $4.926 trillion in revenue. That would result in a deficit of $69 billion.

But the budget includes a new line item that didn't exist in his past proposals, which Mr. Ryan has labeled "macroeconomic fiscal impact" and which he says would further reduce the deficit by $74 billion that year. This would result in a $5 billion net surplus.

Building in assumptions about economic growth is a controversial part of budget math, and Mr. Ryan didn't include the same assumptions in prior proposals. This sort of analysis is popular with Republicans, who often cite it in proposals to cut taxes. . Steve Bell, a former top Senate budget aide now with the Bipartisan Policy Center, called Mr. Ryan's move "unconventional," but wouldn't expound further.

Mr. Ryan's budget also broadly calls for reining in the federal government and expanding the role of states and private companies in an effort to boost growth and lower costs for an array of programs, including food stamps and Medicaid. It would include deep cuts to domestic programs, far beyond the sequester-level reductions that some members of both parties have recently worked to reverse.

The GOP budget resolution stands no chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate, but budgets have long served as important markers of party priorities. In this year's midterm elections, Democrats are likely to seize on Republican proposals to cut spending and refashion Medicare, while GOP lawmakers will tout their commitment to reducing the deficit.

The government has roughly $17.5 trillion in debt. Lawmakers from both parties have said the debt will grow to unsustainable levels if policy makers don't take action.

The White House in March proposed reducing the deficit—but not eliminating it—through a combination of spending cuts and tax increases. Democrats and Republicans in recent years have taken steps to reduce the growth of the debt by restraining spending and allowing certain tax cuts to expire. The deficit has fallen sharply as a result, but it is expected to grow again due to a wave of worker retirements and projections of higher health care costs.

Mr. Ryan faces an extra political hurdle this year: Winning back the support of the 62 House Republicans who voted against a two-year spending deal that he reached with Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D., Wash.) in December. Because Democrats will oppose the plan from Mr. Ryan, he will need many of those GOP votes to win approval for his proposal in the House.

The GOP budget includes the overall spending level for fiscal year 2015 from that deal, which some Republicans opposed because it temporarily loosened spending caps. Republicans on the Budget Committee have said they hope balancing the budget in 10 years, in part by overhauling federal health and safety-net programs, will lure back GOP support.

Mr. Ryan's new budget would spend roughly $42.6 trillion over 10 years, compared to $47.8 trillion under current policies.

This year's House GOP budget includes greater savings than last year's plan from repealing the Affordable Care Act, the president's 2010 health care overhaul. It includes $2.066 trillion in savings over 10 years from scrapping the health law, compared to $1.783 trillion in last year's plan.

This element has long proven controversial, though, as the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has said repealing the law would actually make the deficit worse in the next decade. It wasn't immediately clear how this year's additional savings would materialize.

Mr. Ryan's budget also says that defense cuts proposed by the Obama administration are overzealous. The GOP budget, for instance, pushes back against Mr. Obama's proposed troop reduction, labeling the drawdown a "significant risk in an environment that, as has been noted, is extremely challenging and uncertain." It calls for more Army and Marine Corps. funding than the White House had requested.

Notably, Mr. Ryan's budget doesn't endorse the ambitious tax overhaul released by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.) in late February, which has drawn criticism as it seeks to take on special interests in the tax code. Mr. Camp on Monday announced he won't seek re-election to Congress.

Rather than include his tax plan, the GOP budget doesn't embrace any particular proposal but "calls for a tax code that is simpler, fairer and more competitive." Mr. Ryan is considered Mr. Camp's likely successor, since the Michigan lawmaker's chairmanship was set to expire under the GOP's term-limit rules.

The budget blueprint does mention Mr. Camp's plan, as well as proposals introduced by GOP Reps. Michael Burgess of Texas and Rob Woodall of Georgia, saying Congress should "should consider these and the full myriad of pro-growth plans."

Mr. Ryan's budget doesn't include new proposals to revamp anti-poverty programs, but Mr. Ryan has said he would offer new ideas sometime this year. It reiterates past proposals to turn over more control of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, and Medicaid to states.

Mr. Ryan's proposal would create a new alternative to Medicare that would allow older Americans to choose private insurance plans and receive government support for premiums. They could also choose to stay in traditional Medicare.

People who are now aged 56 and older would be exempt from any changes, but younger people would automatically face the premium support choice going forward. Last year people aged 55 and older were exempt. Some Democrats have been receptive to this idea, but many others have said it would allow Republicans eventually to dismantle Medicare.

The plan also tweaked how to calculate the government's contribution so seniors in many private plans would see their costs go down, compared to current law, though some remaining in traditional Medicare might pay more.

Senate Democrats have signaled that they have no plans to vote on a budget resolution this year after reaching an agreement with Republicans several months ago on spending levels for the current and 2015 fiscal years.
203  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ/Stephens: Diss on: April 01, 2014, 10:09:13 AM
The Dissing of the President
The world is treating Obama like another failed American leader.
By Bret Stephens
March 31, 2014 7:36 p.m. ET

I've never liked the word diss—not as a verb, much less as a noun. But watching the Obama administration get the diss treatment the world over, week-in, week-out, I'm beginning to see its uses.

Diss: On Sunday, Bloomberg reported that Hasan Rouhani named Hamid Aboutalebi to serve as the ambassador to the United Nations. Mr. Rouhani is the Iranian president the West keeps insisting is a "moderate," mounting evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. Mr. Aboutalebi was one of the students who seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979.

Here's the kicker: The State Department—the very institution whose diplomats were held hostage and brutalized for 444 days—will have to approve his visa to come to New York. Considering how desperate John Kerry is not to spoil the nuclear mood music with Tehran, the department probably will.

Diss: On Friday, Vladimir Putin called President Obama to discuss a resolution to the crisis in Ukraine. The Russian president "drew Barack Obama's attention to continued rampage of extremists who are committing acts of intimidation towards peaceful residents," according to the Kremlin, which, as in Soviet days, no longer bothers distinguishing diplomatic communiqués from crass propaganda.
Enlarge Image

President Jimmy Carter, announcing an agreement to release Americans held hostage in Iran on Jan. 19, 1981. Associated Press

Mr. Kerry was immediately dispatched to Paris to meet with Sergei Lavrov, his Russian counterpart. Mr. Lavrov—who knows a one-for-me, one-for-you, one-for-me deal when he sees it—is hinting that Russia will graciously not invade Ukraine provided Washington and Moscow shove "constitutional reforms" favorable to the Kremlin down Kiev's throat. And regarding the invasion that brought the crisis about: "Mr. Kerry on Sunday didn't mention Crimea during his remarks," reports The Wall Street Journal, "giving the impression that the U.S. has largely given up reversing the region's absorption into Russia."

Diss: "If your image is feebleness, it doesn't pay in the world," Moshe Ya'alon, Israel's defense minister, said last month at Tel Aviv University. "At some stage, the United States entered into negotiations with them [the Iranians], and unhappily, when it comes to negotiating at a Persian bazaar, the Iranians were better."

The administration later demanded an apology from Mr. Ya'alon, which he dutifully delivered. But this isn't the first time he's dissed the administration. In January, he called Mr. Kerry"obsessive and messianic," adding that "the only thing that can save us is if Kerry wins the Nobel Prize and leaves us alone."

Diss: "It seems to me that some kind of joker wrote the U.S. president's order smiley". That was what Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin tweeted after learning last month that the Obama administration had sanctioned him for his role in the invasion of Ukraine.

Gotta love the "smiley".

Diss: In March, Iranian Gen. Masoud Jazayeri offered his view of Mr. Obama's threat to use military force against Iran if negotiations fail. "The low-IQ U.S. President and his country's Secretary of State John Kerry speak of the effectiveness of 'the U.S. options on the table' on Iran while this phrase is mocked at and has become a joke among the Iranian nation, especially the children."

Diss: In late December, Mr. Obama warned Congress that he would veto legislation to impose new sanctions on Iran if the Islamic Republic violated its nuclear commitments. It was essential, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said, to do nothing that "will undermine our efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution."

A few weeks later, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif laid a wreath at the tomb of Imad Mughniyeh, mastermind of the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, the 1985 hijacking of TWA 847 and countless other acts of international terrorism. Apparently Mr. Zarif didn't much fear undermining efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution.

Diss: In December, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, under fire for a corruption scandal, unleashed a media campaign to impugn U.S. Ambassador Francis Ricciardone as a member of a dark conspiracy to destabilize the government in Ankara. This is the same Mr. Erdogan whose regime Mr. Ricciardone praised for "great development in democratic structure." It's also the same Mr. Erdogan about whom Mr. Obama once said he had formed "bonds of trust."

Diss: "Rather than challenging the Syrian and Iranian governments, some of our Western partners have refused to take much-needed action against them," warned Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the U.K. late last year. "The foreign policy choices being made in some Western capitals risk the stability of the region and, potentially, the security of the whole Arab world. This means the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has no choice but to become more assertive in international affairs."

This would have been a diss were it whispered in the corridor of a foreign chancellery. The ambassador published it as an op-ed in the New York Times. NYT +0.70%

All this in just the past four months. And all so reminiscent of the contempt the world showed for Jimmy Carter in the waning days of his failed presidency. The trouble for us is that the current presidency has more than 1,000 days to go.

I was wrong about diss. It's a fine word. It means diss-respect. And connotes diss-may. And diss-honor. And diss-aster.

Write to bstephens@wsj.com
204  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: April 01, 2014, 09:58:38 AM
" absolutely no rational economic reason" sounds rather close to saying something is not possible, , , smiley
205  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Catch & Release of 68,000 criminals on: April 01, 2014, 09:56:58 AM
http://cis.org/catch-and-release
206  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: April 01, 2014, 09:20:09 AM
That may very well be the case.

However when you say " There is absolutely no rational economic reason for gold and silver prices to be FALLING now" 

a) your use of the word "now" would seem to mean "the short term"? yes?

b) whether you or I agree or not, there are reasons, which I listed, why G&S would be falling now.

I would re-emphasize that the prospect of higher interest rates e.g. due to the dollar's reserve status being threatened, certainly is a very strong factor against gold prices rising and indeed, as in the late 70s, could very well trigger a sharp decline-- the exact opposite of what you deny to be even possible.

With our collective track record on this subject, humility would seem to be appropriate for us.


207  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The war on the rule of law on: March 31, 2014, 10:37:06 PM


http://www.daybydaycartoon.com/2014/03/31/

http://www.daybydaycartoon.com/2014/04/01/
208  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: March 31, 2014, 08:06:25 PM
Obj:

While certainly governmental manipulations are quite plausible with regard to gold and silver, there most certainly are rational economic reasons for gold and silver to be declining:

a) the prospect of rising interest rates.  G&S do not pay interest.  When interest rates rise, on the margin there will be sellers.  Gold's precipitous decline in the late 70s is a strong example of this at work; or

b) the failure of promises of accelerating inflation for the last several years

PS:  Once again, I point out that I post Wesbury not because I agree with him on everything, but because he has been a FAR better market prognosticator over the last several years (and that is one of the themes for this thread) than any of us.  IMHO it is wise to consider opinions with which one does not necessarily agree.


209  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Nice country ya got there; it would be a shame if anything happened to it , , , on: March 31, 2014, 10:11:25 AM
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/31/russia-ukraine-deal-troops-lavrov-kerry
210  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fire exchanged on: March 31, 2014, 10:10:11 AM
http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/31/world/asia/north-korea-live-fire-exchange/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

211  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / SCOTUS decsion on domestic violence and gun rights on: March 30, 2014, 09:14:51 PM
http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/03/26/high-court-bolsters-domestic-violence-gun-ban-law/
212  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sen.Ted Cruz gets passionate on: March 30, 2014, 11:37:42 AM
http://www.theblaze.com/blog/2014/03/29/ready-this-ted-cruz-ad-is-so-epic-it-almost-looks-like-hes-announcing-hes-running-for-president/
213  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: March 30, 2014, 11:34:45 AM
"1.  The 24-35 age cohort have a completely different view of real estate than previous age groups. They no longer see it as an investment opportunity , , , ."

Particularly when they can't get a job more than 29 hours a week to pay off their college loans.


214  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Space based solar energy on: March 29, 2014, 08:28:09 PM
http://spaceenergy.com/i/flash/ted_presentation
215  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Follow the money on: March 29, 2014, 05:17:37 PM
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/26/world/americas/suspected-of-shielding-mexican-drug-profits-but-hiding-in-plain-sight.html?nlid=49641193&src=recpb&_r=0
216  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / How could we go to war with ourselves? on: March 29, 2014, 05:13:21 PM
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/29/world/europe/russianborder.html?emc=edit_th_20140329&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=49641193
217  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Didn't the buffalo produce a lot of methane? on: March 29, 2014, 05:10:34 PM
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/29/us/politics/white-house-unveils-plans-to-to-cut-methane-emissions.html?emc=edit_th_20140329&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=49641193
218  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Liberal fascists silence 5 year old girl from praying? on: March 29, 2014, 05:07:00 PM
http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/03/28/teachers-stunning-response-to-5-year-olds-endearing-act-has-these-outraged-parents-strongly-considering-homeschooling/
219  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Vote patterns by age groups on: March 29, 2014, 09:39:57 AM
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/29/opinion/blow-the-split-of-the-ages.html?emc=edit_th_20140329&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=49641193
220  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fareed Zakaria: "I'm so smart if I do say so myself" on: March 28, 2014, 11:05:12 PM
The snarkiness of my subject line aside, there are some points of interest in here apart from it as a study in a certain mindset.  For example, what are the implications of cyberwar?  If China has a hold of our infrastructure via planted stuxnet type viruses and is dumping its holdings of our bonds thus spiking our interest rates, what is our motive and what relevance our military in deciding whether to fight for free passage in the South China Sea?  Economic leverage does matter, and increasingly so-- and interdependence cuts both ways.

Though I think he gets it wrong, the reference to Pinker's thesis is worth considering, and is well in line with thought processes explored by Konrad Lorenz in his On Aggression and The Waning of Humanness.

Anyway, Mr. Smartypants pants out a paean to "smart power".

Obama’s 21st-century power politics
by Fareed Zakaria,
Published: March 27

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has brought to the fore an important debate about what kind of world we live in. Many critics charge that the Obama administration has been blind to its harsh realities because it believes, as the Wall Street Journal opined, in “a fantasy world of international rules.” John McCain declared that “this is the most naive president in history.” The Post’s editorial board worried that President Obama misunderstands “the nature of the century we’re living in.”

Almost all of these critics have ridiculed Secretary of State John Kerry’s assertion that changing borders by force, as Russia did, is 19th-century behavior in the 21st century. Well, here are the facts. Scholar Mark Zacher has tallied up changes of borders by force, something that was once quite common. Since World War I, he notes, that practice has sharply declined, and in recent decades, that decline has accelerated. Before 1950, wars between nations resulted in border changes (annexations) about 80 percent of the time. After 1950, that number dropped to 27 percent. In fact, since 1946, there have been only 12 examples of major changes in borders using force — and all of them before 1976. So Putin’s behavior, in fact, does belong to the 19th century.

The transformation of international relations goes well beyond border changes. Harvard’s Steven Pinker has collected war data in his superb book “The Better Angels of Our Nature.” In a more recent essay, he points out that “after a 600-year stretch in which Western European countries started two new wars a year, they have not started one since 1945. Nor have the 40 or so richest nations anywhere in the world engaged each other in armed conflict.” Colonial wars, a routine feature of international life for thousands of years, are extinct. Wars between countries — not just major powers, not just in Europe — have also dropped dramatically, by more than 50 percent over the past three decades. Scholars at the University of Maryland have found that the past decade has seen the lowest number of new conflicts since World War II.

Many aspects of international life remain nasty and brutish, and it is easy to sound tough and suggest that you understand the hard realities of power politics. But the most astonishing, remarkable reality about the world is how much things have changed, especially since 1945.

It is ironic that the Wall Street Journal does not recognize this new world because it was created in substantial part through capitalism and free trade.Twenty years ago, Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew, as hardheaded a statesman as I have ever met, told me that Asian countries had seen the costs of war and the fruits of economic interdependence and development — and that they would not choose the former over the latter.

This is not an academic debate. The best way to deal with Russia’s aggression in Crimea is not to present it as routine and national interest-based foreign policy that will be countered by Washington in a contest between two great powers. It is to point out, as Obama did eloquently this week in Brussels, that Russia is grossly endangering a global order that has benefited the entire world.

Compare what the Obama administration has managed to organize in the wake of this latest Russian aggression to the Bush administration’s response to Putin’s actions in Georgia in 2008. That was a blatant invasion. Moscow sent in tanks and heavy artillery; hundreds were killed, nearly 200,000 displaced. Yet the response was essentially nothing. This time, it has been much more serious. Some of this difference is in the nature of the stakes, but it might also have to do with the fact that the Obama administration has taken pains to present Russia’s actions in a broader context and get other countries to see them as such. 

((What specious twaddle!!! By 2008 the US had no bandwidth because it was fighting not one but two wars of the sort that FZ seems to think don't happen because of Pinker's book.  Bush's polling was in the 20s!  You think he could have gone to the American people and asked for a third war-- this time with Russia?!?  And, two major wars notwithstanding, FZ thinks Bush do nothing!   And he Baraq a man of action because he "has taken pains to present Russia’s actions in a broader context and get other countries to see them as such"?   Are you fg kidding me?!?))

You can see a similar pattern with Iran. The Bush administration largely pressured that country bilaterally  ((because the Germans in particular and the French too were so fg venal in their desire to make money by undercutting the sanctions Bush wanted , , ,). The Obama administration was able to get much more effective pressure because it presented Iran’s nuclear program as a threat to global norms of nonproliferation, persuaded the other major powers to support sanctions, enacted them through the United Nations and thus ensured that they were comprehensive and tight. ((Ummm details details-- the US Congress, especially the Reps, had to push Obama to do this.  Obama has LOOSENED the noose in return for nothing and has appointed a Sec Def who is taking US military spending down to less than 3% GDP while opposing sanctions on Iran from the beginning.  Again, are you fg kidding me?!?))

This is what leadership looks like in the 21st century.  ((And a profound tragedy it is.))

There is an evolving international order with new global norms making war and conquest increasingly rare ((due e.g. to US arms standing at the Berlin Wall and its analogues)). We should strengthen, not ridicule, it. Yes, some places stand in opposition to this trend — North Korea, Syria, Russia. The people running these countries believe that they are charting a path to greatness and glory. But they are the ones living in a fantasy world. 

221  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hamas imposes Sharia on: March 28, 2014, 10:26:40 PM
Hamas Imposes Radical New Law: Lashings, Amputations, and Massive Executions
by IPT News  •  Mar 28, 2014 at 2:39 pm
http://www.investigativeproject.org/4333/hamas-imposes-radical-new-law-lashings

 
Hamas is now trying to outdo the Taliban in imposing new Shar'ia inspired draconian punishments, including amputations of limbs and massive increases in lashings and executions. A senior Hamas official told Gulf News that a new punitive law, "inspired by" Shar'ia Law, is required to replace the former and "impractical" one. The article states that there will be a minimum of 20 lashes for minor offenses and a minimum of 80 lashes for criminal cases: the death penalty will also be expanded in accordance with the Shar'ia. In addition, the new law includes cutting off the hands of a thief.

By replacing an almost 80-year old punitive law with a new radical one, Hamas has earned widespread condemnation by other Palestinian factions. Even other terrorist groups condemn Hamas' new law.

"The new law will harm the interests of the Palestinians and perpetuate the Palestinian internal split. Hamas must retreat and show priority and preference to the higher Palestinian interests," according to The Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) statement.

According to the article, Hamas asserts that the law aims at deterring criminals in Gaza.

Instead of planning to alleviate Gaza's deteriorating economic situation or reining in terrorist groups operating in the Strip, the Hamas regime is reinforcing its radical rule. Clearly, Hamas prioritizes imposing its radical Islamist agenda on Palestinian society over enhancing Gaza's standard of living.

It remains to be seen whether Hamas' front groups and supporters in the United States, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations, American Muslims for Palestine and the Muslim American Society, who claim to be civil rights organizations, will condemn Hamas for implementing this new law
222  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt: Baraq gets one right on: March 28, 2014, 04:46:17 PM


President Obama Wins One

President Obama won a significant victory in the United Nations yesterday.

President Putin found himself surprisingly isolated.

I am often critical of President Obama and his foreign policy team but when he gets one right, he deserves recognition and the event deserves some notice.
When the United Nations votes to repudiate Putin's takeover of Crimea -- and does so by a ten to one margin -- something good has happened.

Votes in the United Nations General Assembly are expressions of sentiment. They are not legally binding. Only the Security Council -- in which Russia and China have vetoes, as do the United States, Great Britain, and France -- can pass a binding resolution.

Nonetheless a decisive General Assembly vote is psychologically useful.

Yesterday's vote in the General Assembly was so one-sided that I was startled. I can't remember the last time the United States had an almost ten-to-one vote for its position.

The actual vote was 100 "Yes" to 11 "No" with 58 abstentions and 25 countries not voting. Abstention is a method of voting without taking sides. The non-voting countries are overwhelmingly small and their government may not have been able to issue instructions in a timely manner or they may have wanted to avoid offending anyone by simply hiding.

The most startling result was the tiny number of countries who sided with Russia in voting "No". The pro-Putin alliance consisted of Armenia, Belarus, Bolivia, Cuba, North Korea, Nicaragua, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe.

Putin has to be a little sobered by being reduced to an alliance of the outcast, the self-destructive and the decaying. This is a long fall from the glory days of the Soviet Union in the United Nations.

The Obama Administration, on the other hand, has to worry about two sets of countries that abstained and refused to vote against the Russian takeover of Crimea.
First, some of the largest and most important countries in the world, China, India, Brazil, Argentina, and South Africa abstained. These are big countries with big populations and big economies. Their abstention is not a good sign and indicates some space for Putin to gain allies.

Second, and in some ways more troubling, are the countries in which we have invested - and in some cases for which we have bled - who refused to stand with us. Look at Afghanistan, Egypt, El Salvador, Iraq, and Pakistan. If we haven't earned the right to expect some support from these countries, something is seriously wrong.
Even with these exceptions, this is still a significant psychological victory and vividly signals how isolated Putin is in his Crimean adventure. It has to cause some of the Moscow leadership to urge caution before undertaking more adventures.

President Obama deserves credit for following through on a political-diplomatic strategy which has led to a significant psychological victory.

Your Friend,
Newt
223  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Legality in Cyberspace; an adversary view on: March 28, 2014, 02:52:18 PM


LEGALITY IN CYBERSPACE: AN ADVERSARY VIEW
Keir Giles with Andrew Monaghan

Executive Summary

The United States and its allies are in general agreement on the legal status of conflict in cyberspace. Although key principles remain unresolved, such as what precisely constitutes an armed attack or use of force in cyberspace, overall there is a broad legal consensus among Euro-Atlantic nations, that existing international law and international commitments are sufficient to regulate cyber conflict.

This principle is described in a range of authoritative legal commentaries. But these can imply misleadingly that this consensus is global and unchallenged. In fact, China, Russia, and a number of like-minded nations have an entirely different concept of the applicability of international law to cyberspace as a whole, including to the nature of conflict within it. These nations could therefore potentially operate in cyberspace according to entirely different understandings of what is permissible under international humanitarian law, the law of armed conflict, and other legal baskets governing conduct during hostilities.

U.S. policymakers cannot afford to underestimate the extent to which Russian concepts and approaches differ from what they may take for granted. This includes the specific question of when, or whether, hostile action in cyberspace constitutes an act or state of war. Recent Russian academic and military commentary stresses the blurring of the distinction between war and peace, and asks to what extent this distinction still exists. This suggestion of a shifting boundary between war and peace is directly relevant to consideration of at what point Russia considers itself to be at war and therefore subject to specific legal constraints on actions in cyberspace.

Conversely, a range of actions that are considered innocent and friendly by the United States and European nations are parsed as hostile actions by Russia, leading to Russian attempts to outlaw “interference in another state’s information space.” The Russian notion of what constitutes a cyber weapon—or in Russian terminology, an information weapon—is radically different from our assumptions.

Initiatives put forward by Russia for international cooperation on legal initiatives governing cyber activity have received a mixed response from other states. But they need to be taken into account because of the alternative consensus on cyber security opposing the views of the United States and its close allies, which is growing as a result of an effective Russian program of ticking up support for Moscow’s proposals from third countries around the world.

This monograph explores the Russian approach to legal constraints governing actions in cyberspace within the broader framework of the Russian understanding of the nature of international law and commitments, with the aim of informing U.S. military and civilian policymakers of views held by a potential adversary in cyberspace. Using a Russian perspective to examine the legal status of a range of activities in cyberspace, including what constitutes hostile activity, demonstrates that assumptions commonly held in the United States may need to be adjusted to counter effectively—or engage with—Russian cyber initiatives.

cont. at

Strategic Studies Institute and U.S. Army War College Press, U.S. Army War College

http://strategicstudiesinstitute.arm...cfm?pubID=1193

224  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The electoral process, vote fraud, SEIU/ACORN et al, corruption etc. on: March 28, 2014, 11:27:45 AM
While those fit here and are quite pertinent, please note from here forward we now have a thread dedicated to corruption.

225  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Serious Read: WSJ: Noonan: Putin's Remarkable Speech on: March 28, 2014, 11:26:06 AM
Noonan: Mr. Putin's Revealing Speech
At the Kremlin, he makes the case for an increasingly aggressive Russia.
By Peggy Noonan
March 27, 2014 7:35 p.m. ET

It is not fully remembered or appreciated—to some degree it's been forced down the memory hole—that a primary reason the American people opposed the Soviet Union and were able to sustain that opposition (and bear its costs) was that the Soviets were not only expansionist but atheistic, and aggressively so. It was part of what communism was about—God is a farce and must be removed as a force. They closed the churches, killed and imprisoned priests and nuns. Wherever communism went there was an attempt to suppress belief.

Americans, more then than now a churchgoing and believing people, knew this and recoiled. That recoil added energy, heft and moral seriousness to America's long opposition. Americans wouldn't mind if Russia merely operated under an eccentric economic system—that was their business. They wouldn't mind if it had dictators—one way or another Russia always had dictators. But that it was expansionist and atheistic—that was different. That was a threat to humanity.

One of the strategically interesting things about Vladimir Putin is that he has been careful not to set himself against religious belief but attempted to align himself with it. He has taken domestic actions that he believes reflect the assumptions of religious conservatives. He has positioned himself so that he can make a claim on a part of the Russian soul, as they used to say, that his forbears could not: He is not anti-God, he is pro-God, pro the old church of the older, great Russia.

That is only one way in which Putinism is different. The Soviets had an overarching world-ideology, Mr. Putin does not. The Soviets had an army of global reach, Mr. Putin has an army of local reach. The Soviet premiers of old, as Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, noted in an interview, operated within "a certain sense of bureaucracy, of restraints." Mr. Putin's Russia is "so concentrated economically and politically that we don't know what constraints there are on his autonomy." There is cronyism, crackdowns on the press. Mr. Putin has weakened formal institutions—and "institutions are inherently conservative" because "they provide checks and balances." Mr. Haass added that "Putin's ambitions and limits are not clear."

I think we got a deep look at Mr. Putin's attitudes and goals in his speech last week at the Kremlin, telling the world his reasons for annexing Crimea. It is a remarkable document and deserves more attention. It was a full-throated appeal to Russian nationalism, and an unapologetic expression of Russian grievance. (The translation is from the Prague Post.)

At the top, religious references. Crimea is "where Prince Vladimir was baptized. His spiritual feat of adopting Orthodoxy predetermined the overall basis of the culture, civilization and human values that unite the people of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus."

Crimea has always been an inseparable part of Russia. Yes, in 1954 "the Communist Party head, Nikita Khrushchev" decided to transfer it to Ukraine. "What stood behind this decision of his—a desire to win the support of the Ukrainian political establishment or to atone for the mass oppressions of the 1930s in Ukraine—is for historians to figure out." But Khrushchev headed "a totalitarian state" and never asked the Crimeans for their views. Decades later, "what seemed impossible became a reality. The U.S.S.R. fell apart. . . . The big country was gone." Things moved swiftly. Crimeans and others "went to bed in one country and awoke in other ones, overnight becoming ethnic minorities in former [Soviet] republics." Russia "was not simply robbed, it was plundered." Crimeans in 1991 felt "they were handed over like a sack of potatoes."

Russia "humbly accepted the situation." It was rocked, "incapable of protecting its interests." Russians knew they'd been treated unjustly, but they chose to "build our good-neighborly relations with independent Ukraine on a new basis." Russia was accommodating, respectful. But Ukraine was led by successive bad leaders who "milked the country, fought among themselves for power."

"I understand those who came out on Maidan with peaceful slogans against corruption," Mr. Putin said. But forces that "stood behind the latest events in Ukraine" had "a different agenda." They "resorted to terror, murder and riots." They are "Nationalists, neo-Nazis, Russophobes and anti-Semites." "They continue to set the tone in Ukraine to this day." They have "foreign sponsors" and "mentors."

He declared that "there is no legitimate executive authority in Ukraine now," that government agencies are controlled by "imposters," often "controlled by radicals." In that atmosphere residents of Crimea turned to Russia for protection. Russia could not abandon them. It helped them hold a referendum.

"Western Europe and North America" now say Moscow has violated international law. "It's a good thing that they at least remember that there exists such a thing as international law—better late than never." And Russia has violated nothing: Its military "never entered Crimea" but was already there, in line with international agreements. Russia chose merely to "enhance" its forces there, within limits previously set. There was not a single armed confrontation, and no casualties. Why? Because Crimeans wanted them there. If it had been an armed intervention, he said, surely a shot would have been fired.

In the decades since the Soviet Union's fall—or, as Mr. Putin called it, since "the dissolution of bipolarity on the planet"—the world has become less stable. The U.S. is guided not by international law but by "the rule of the gun." Americans think they are exceptional and can "decide the destinies of the world," building coalitions on the basis of "if you are not with us, you are against us"—Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya. The "color revolutions" have produced "chaos" instead of freedom, and "the Arab Spring turned into the Arab Winter."

Mr. Putin cleverly knocked down the idea of European integration. The real problem, he said, is that the West has been moving against "Eurasian integration." Russia over the years has tried to be cooperative, but the U.S. and its allies have repeatedly lied and "made decisions behind our backs." NATO expanded to the east; a missile-defense system is "moving forward." The "infamous policy of containment" continues against Russia today. "They are constantly trying to sweep us into a corner. . . . But there is a limit to everything."

Russia does not want to harm Ukraine. "We do not want to divide Ukraine; we do not need that." But Kiev had best not join NATO, and Ukrainians should "put their own house in order."

What does this remarkable speech tell us? It presents a rationale for moving further. Ukraine, for instance, is a government full of schemers controlled by others—it may require further attention. It expresses a stark sense of historical grievance and assumes it is shared by its immediate audience. It makes clear a formal animus toward the U.S. It shows Mr. Putin has grown comfortable in confrontation. His speech posits the presence of a new Russia, one that is "an independent, active participant in international affairs." It suggests a new era, one that doesn't have a name yet. But the decades following the collapse of the Soviet Union were one thing, and this is something else—something rougher, darker and more aggressive.

It tells us this isn't about Crimea.

It tells us this isn't over.
226  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Mercy Warren: Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution 1805 on: March 28, 2014, 11:20:04 AM
"It is necessary for every American, with becoming energy to endeavor to stop the dissemination of principles evidently destructive of the cause for which they have bled. It must be the combined virtue of the rulers and of the people to do this, and to rescue and save their civil and religious rights from the outstretched arm of tyranny, which may appear under any mode or form of government." --Mercy Warren, History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution, 1805
227  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Different SEC rules for private and public sectors on: March 28, 2014, 11:04:54 AM
http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304418404579466930939764344?mod=WSJ_Opinion_LEADSecond&mg=reno64-wsj
228  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Kobe Bryant on: March 28, 2014, 10:51:44 AM
http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/03/27/kobe-bryant-incurs-wrath-of-the-left-over-his-comments-on-trayvon-martin-case/
229  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Colbert's joke on: March 28, 2014, 10:37:02 AM
http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/03/27/stephen-colberts-politically-incorrect-joke-on-twitter-has-people-calling-for-his-show-to-be-cancelled/
230  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Ambidiestros on: March 28, 2014, 10:25:52 AM
En DBMA buscamos desarollar los dos lados, por lo cual lo siguiente es de interes:


http://www.abc.es/tecnologia/redes/20140327/abci-seis-curiosidades-ambidiestros-201403270922.html
231  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ Henninger: Why can't the Left Govern? on: March 28, 2014, 10:22:13 AM


http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303325204579463581942405804?mg=reno64-wsj


WONDER LAND
Why Can't the Left Govern?
The Left can win elections. Why can't it run a government?
 
By
DANIEL HENNINGER

March 26, 2014 7:12 p.m. ET
Surveying the fall in support for the governments of Barack Obama, New York City's progressive Mayor Bill de Blasio and France's Socialist President François Hollande, a diagnosis of the current crisis begins to emerge: The political left can win elections but it's unable to govern.
Once in office, the left stumbles from fiasco to fiasco. ObamaCare, enacted without a single vote from the opposition party, is an impossible labyrinth of endless complexity. Bill de Blasio's war on charter schools degenerated into an unseemly attack on poor New York minority children. François Hollande's first act in 2012, like a character in a medieval fable, was to order that more tax revenue be squeezed from the French turnips.
 
Mr. Obama's approval rating is about 43%, Mr. de Blasio's has sunk to 45% after just two months in office, and Mr. Hollande hit the lowest approvals ever recorded in the modern French presidency. The left inevitably says their leaders failed them. The failure looks self-inflicted.

Three European academics asked themselves recently how 19 United Nations summit meetings have been unable to produce a treaty on global warming. Why the cause of climate change has fallen apart is described in "Melting Summits," a paper and cautionary tale just published in the Academy of Management Journal by Elke Schüssler of Germany, Charles Clemens Rüling of France and Bettina Wittneben of the U.K.

No idea in our time has had deeper political support. Al Gore and John Kerry have described disbelievers in global warming as basically idiots—"shoddy scientists" in Mr. Kerry's words. But somehow, an idea with which "no serious scientist disagrees" has gone nowhere as policy. The collapse of the U.N.'s 2009 Copenhagen climate summit was a meltdown for the ages.

In an interview with the Academy of Management about her paper, Bettina Wittneben of Oxford University, who supports a climate-change treaty and has attended 13 climate meetings, summarized the wheel-spinning: "Sometimes I just find myself shaking my head after talking to participants in recent COPs [the U.N.'s climate meetings]. They'll come back from the meetings simply brimming with enthusiasm about the networking they've done, the contacts they've made, the new ideas about their research they had or the new angles to lobbying they thought of. But ask what progress was made in terms of global policy initiatives, and all you get is a shrug."
Put differently, it's not about doing something serious about global warming. It's really all about them (a virus threatening American conservatism as well). The "them" at the U.N. summits included not just the participating nations but a galaxy of well-financed nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs.

They travel under their own acronyms. The environmentalists are ENGOs, the trade unions are TUNGOS, indigenous peoples are IPOs, business and industry are BINGOs and women, gender and youth groups are YOUNGOs.

These are the left's famous change agents. The authors dryly describe what they actually do as "field maintenance." Instead of being "catalysts for change," they write that "more and more actors find COP participation useful for their purposes, but their activity is increasingly disconnected from the issue of mitigating climate change."
And little wonder. The failed efforts to get the global-warming treaty done reflect the issue's departure from anything practical. It's impossible to read this history of global warming's demise without hearing resonances of ObamaCare's problems.

The text of the climate-change treaty at Copenhagen in 2009 included "thousands of 'brackets,' or alternative wordings." A participant described the puzzle palace: "There are more and more parallel processes, and everything must be negotiated at the same time. The number of . . . negotiation issues has increased and many of these issues . . . are discussed in different places at the same time. . . . Very few people understand the whole thing." Maybe they could just pass it to find out what's in it.

One organization specialist calls this phenomenon "social deadlock." ObamaCare is social deadlock. But the American left keeps doing it. This isn't the 1930s, and smart people on the left might come to grips with the fact that the one-grand-scheme-fits-all compulsion is out of sync with the individualization that technology lets people design into their lives today.

Rather than resolve the complexities of public policy in the world we inhabit, the left's default is to simply acquire power, then cram down what they want to do with one-party votes or by fiat, figuring they can muddle through the wreckage later. Thus the ObamaCare mandates. Thus candidate de Blasio's determination, cheered on by the city's left-wing establishment, to jam all its kids through an antique public-school system. The ObamaCare mandates are a mess, and the war on charter schools is an embarrassment.

Making the unworkable work by executive decree or court-ordered obedience is one way to rule, and maybe they like it that way. But it isn't governing.
232  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Border Build Up stokes worry on: March 28, 2014, 10:17:33 AM
By Adam Entous and Julian E. Barnes
Updated March 28, 2014 7:34 a.m. ET

Russian soldiers stand near a tank outside a former Ukrainian military base near the Crimean capital of Simferopol. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

WASHINGTON—Russian troops massing near Ukraine are actively concealing their positions and establishing supply lines that could be used in a prolonged deployment, ratcheting up concerns that Moscow is preparing for another major incursion and not conducting exercises as it claims, U.S. officials said.  Such an incursion could take place without warning because Russia has already deployed the array of military forces needed for such an operation, say officials briefed on the latest U.S. intelligence. (Follow the latest developments on the crisis in Ukraine.)

As Russia began its invasion of Crimea last month, Ukraine's fledgling government turned to its armed forces to bolster security. What they found was a badly degraded military, stripped bare by years of neglect and corruption. Photo: EPA


The rapid speed of the Russian military buildup and efforts to camouflage the forces and equipment have stoked U.S. fears, in part because American intelligence agencies have struggled to assess Russian President Vladimir Putin's specific intentions.  The troop movements and the concealment—involving covering up equipment along the border—suggest Mr. Putin is positioning forces in the event he decides to quickly expand his takeover of the Crimea peninsula by seizing more Ukrainian territory, despite Western threats of tighter sanctions.

Still unknown, however, is Mr. Putin's plan, or whether he has one.  The Kremlin has defended the deployments as a legitimate military exercise on Russian soil.

"It's really a question of leadership intentions. Who does Putin tell, if anyone, what his plans are?" a senior Obama administration official said. "He's obviously putting things in place in case he wants to go in. The question is whether a political decision has been made to do so."

A spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said U.S. officials are working at understanding the Russian force movements.

"We're actively monitoring the situation in eastern Ukraine, including the massing of Russian troops and materiel at the border," said the spokesman, Shawn Turner.
"Our immediate focus is on providing policy makers with regular intelligence updates and forward-looking analysis of the situation in order to help inform decisions," he added.

The U.S. believes Russia now has nearly 50,000 troops in position for possible operations, including those participating in the declared exercises along the Ukrainian border and those already inside Russian-controlled Crimea, officials said.  U.S. and Western officials previously have said there were 20,000 Russian forces along Ukraine's border, in addition to those inside Crimea, estimated at as many as 25,000.

A senior Ukrainian official said Thursday that the number of Russian troops in the area was closer to 100,000.  A senior U.S. official said that 100,000 figure was "way too high."

"It's not the number that matters most. They have enough to move in now, regardless, and in the right composition to be dangerous," the senior U.S. official said. "What matters is the intent. And we don't have a clear sense of that."

Another senior military official said the Pentagon was increasingly worried that the Russians have moved into place additional supplies including food and spare parts that could both support an exercise or a military incursion into Ukraine. Putting in place the logistics support could allow Russian forces to sustain themselves if they were to cross into eastern Ukraine.

"They are positioning logistics. That is necessary for the exercise but could also be used for further aggression if they choose to go," the senior military official said. "They have in place the capability, capacity and readiness they would need should they choose to conduct further aggression."

Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, said Thursday that Russia has continued to send more troops to its border with Ukraine.  While Russia has said the troops were sent to the border to conduct military exercises, Adm. Kirby said the U.S. has "seen no specific indications that exercises are taking place."

U.S. spy agencies have struggled to intercept telltale communications in which Russian leaders, military commanders or front-line troops have indicated their military plans, said U.S. officials.  Intelligence officials are using an array of intelligence tools, including imagery and human sources to discern Russia's next moves.  Russia is often very good at operational security and may be working actively to not voice intentions because they know they might be overheard, U.S. officials say. 

A U.S. official said the U.S. is tracking the Russian efforts closely and has "visibility into the Russian troop buildup along the Ukrainian border."  The senior Obama administration official acknowledged the difficulty of collecting intelligence about Russian intentions, calling the country a "hard target."  Military officials said the camouflaging has further complicated U.S. efforts to assess the size and scope of the military forces being put in place.

"They have moved into concealed positions," said a senior military official.  The official said concealment could be aimed at obscuring images taken by American spy satellites.
The concealment effort may also be designed to obscure location and size of their force from the Ukrainian military.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has told U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that Russia has no designs to invade Ukraine but the Pentagon is concerned that the Russian minister isn't the final word on Russia's intentions in the region.  On Tuesday, U.K. Defense Minister Philip Hammond expressed concerns that Mr. Putin is directly controlling strategy and that the views of ministers like Mr. Shoigu may be "moot."

Adm. Kirby said Wednesday that the Pentagon shares that concern.
233  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russian State TV: Jews brought holocaust on themselves on: March 28, 2014, 10:07:37 AM
Click here to watch: Russian state TV says Jews brought Holocaust on themselves
A presenter on Russia's state TV, Evelyn Zakamskaya, said on air that the Jews helped bring the Holocaust on themselves, according to a blog post published on Sunday. Zakamskaya was responding to a guest on the show, who said it was "strange" that Jewish organizations support Maidan (the Ukrainian protest movement). "They do not realize that they are, with their own hands, closer to the Holocaust?" To that, Zakamskaya responded: "They also advanced the first [Holocaust.]" Blogger John Aravosis from AMERICAblog confirmed the transcript of the show with Buzzfeed's Miriam Elder, who said it was "accurate, if incomplete."
WATCH HERE
President Vladimir Putin had actually decried rising anti-Semitism in Ukraine, saying in a press conference earlier this month that Moscow's "biggest concern" was "the rampage of reactionary forces, nationalist and anti-Semitic forces going on in certain parts of Ukraine, including Kiev.” However, Ira Forman, the Obama administration’s special envoy on anti-Semitism, disputed those claims, saying Putin’s assertions were not credible. “We have no indication that what President Putin has been saying about anti-Semitism has been a true reflection of what’s happening on the ground,” he said.
234  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Marry and submit to him on: March 28, 2014, 09:53:09 AM
http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/marry_and_submit_to_him._what
235  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / FPM: Syria headed to failed state? on: March 28, 2014, 08:43:32 AM

Syria

The United Nations on Thursday warned of increasing militant links between Iraq and Syria. U.N. Special Envoy to Iraq Nickolay Mladenov told the U.N. Security Council, "The ongoing conflict in Syria has added a regional dimension to sectarian tensions and is affording terrorist networks the occasion to forge links across the border and expand their support base." In addition to security challenges, the World Health Organization has described the polio outbreak in Syria as "arguably the most challenging outbreak in the history of polio eradication" as there have been 38 cases reported in Syria, and one confirmed case in Iraq. Ninette Kelley, regional representative for Lebanon for the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees warned of the threat posed to Lebanon from the almost one million refugees that have poured into the country from Syria. She noted, "If this country is not bolstered, then the very real prospect of it collapsing and the conflict of Syria spreading full force to Lebanon becomes much more likely."
236  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fgn Policy Mag (FPM): Baraq seeks to repair ties to SA on: March 28, 2014, 08:42:27 AM
Obama Seeks to Repair Ties in Visit to Saudi Arabia
________________________________________
 
U.S. President Barack Obama will visit Saudi Arabia Friday seeking to repair fractured relations with the kingdom. The United States and Saudi Arabia have forged a strategic alliance over the last seven decades, but have seen increased divisions since the uprisings that ousted former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Relations have particularly soured as the United States has worked to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran and failed to initiate a military intervention in Syria, where the Saudis are supporting the mainly Sunni opposition to President Bashar al-Assad. A goal of Obama's visit is to convince Saudi Arabia that U.S. relations with Iran will not compromise Washington's commitment to Saudi security. However, Saudi Arabia may not be persuaded, according to one Saudi official "The U.S. has underwritten the regional security order for the past 70 years and it sees now as a good time to disengage. We will have to do it all ourselves."

Marc:  This little paragraph brushes over the presence of AQ type groups such as Al Nusra in Syria.  The implications of the quote from the Saudi official are profound.
237  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Corruption on: March 28, 2014, 08:29:11 AM
Well, the evidence here seems to be that there ARE parts of the perennial government that do retain institutional integrity.   This is a very good thing.
238  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / 70 years under Communism and still recovering on: March 28, 2014, 08:24:31 AM
http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/still_recovering

239  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cooking the books on: March 27, 2014, 03:00:24 PM
 The Right Opinion
Massaging of Critical Data Undermines Our Society
By Victor Davis Hanson · Mar. 27, 2014
11 Comments
Print Email Bigger Smaller

Transparency and truth are the fuels that run sophisticated civilizations. Without them, the state grinds to a halt. Lack of trust – not barbarians on the frontier, global warming or cooling, or even epidemics – doomed civilizations of the past, from imperial Rome to the former Soviet Union.

The United States can withstand the untruth of a particular presidential administration if the permanent government itself is honest. Dwight Eisenhower lied about the downed U-2 spy plane inside the Soviet Union. Almost nothing Richard Nixon said about Watergate was true. Intelligence reports of vast stockpiles of WMD in Iraq proved as accurate as Bill Clinton's assertion that he never had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky.

Presidents fib. The nation gets outraged. The independent media digs out the truth. And so the system of trust repairs itself.

What distinguishes democracies from tin-horn dictatorships and totalitarian monstrosities are our permanent meritocratic government bureaus that remain nonpartisan and honestly report the truth.

The Benghazi, Associated Press and National Security Agency scandals are scary, but not as disturbing as growing doubts about the honesty of permanent government itself. It is no longer crackpot to doubt the once impeccable and nonpartisan IRS. When it assured the public that it was not making decisions about tax-exempt status based on politics, it lied. One of its top commissioners, Lois Lerner, resigned and invoked the Fifth Amendment.

A system of voluntary tax reporting rests on trust. If the IRS itself is untruthful, will it be able to expect truthful compliance from taxpayers?

Many doubt the officially reported government unemployment rates. That statistic is vital in assessing economic growth and is of enormous political importance in the way citizens vote.

It was reported in November that the Census Bureau may have fabricated survey results during the 2012 presidential campaign, sending false data to the Labor Department that could have altered official employment statistics.  In the 1990s, the method of assessing the official unemployment rate was massaged to make it seem lower than it actually was. Rules were changed to ignore millions who had been out of work longer than 52 weeks. They were suddenly classified as permanent dropouts and not part of the idled workforce.

Does the government release an accurate report on quarterly Gross Domestic Product growth – another vital barometer of how the economy is doing? Maybe not. Last year, the Bureau of Economic Analysis for the first time factored research and development costs of businesses into statistics on investment growth.

Suddenly, a cost became proof of business output and thus was added into the business investment contribution to GDP. That new accounting gimmick may have added hundreds of billions of dollars into the equation of figuring GDP growth last year alone. Not surprisingly, the government reported unexpectedly high 2.8 percent GDP growth after the changes.

Is inflation really as low as the government insists? In recent times the government has not just counted the increase in the prices of goods, but also factored into its calculus theories about changing consumer buying habits when prices increase. The changes have resulted in officially lowered inflation rates.

No one knows how many Americans have now bought and paid for Affordable Care Act health insurance policies. There is no accurate information about how many young people have enrolled – critical to the success of Obamacare. Nor do Americans know how many enrollees were previously uninsured. Nor does the public know how many enrollees simply switched insurance from Medicaid to the Affordable Care Act. There is no information about how many actually have paid their premiums.

No one knows how many foreign citizens who entered the U.S. illegally were apprehended inside the United States and returned to their country of origin last year – a figure vital for any compromise on passing comprehensive immigration reform.

The Obama administration claims near-record numbers of deportations. In fact, once again government agencies – in this case the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – have mysteriously changed the way they compile statistics. The ICE now counts as deportations those foreign nationals whom the Border Patrol immediately stops or turns away at the border. Such detentions were not previously counted as deportations.

The result is that bureaucrats can report near-record numbers of deportations, while privately assuring the administration that immigration enforcement has been greatly relaxed.

There is a pattern here. Changes in data collection seem to have a predictable result: Inflation and unemployment rates become lower. Economic growth becomes greater. The IRS focuses on government skeptics. The Affordable Care Act is not in trouble. Illegal immigration is not such a problem.

If the people increasingly believe that bureaucrats try to alter realty to reflect preconceived ideologies or the goals of the particular regime in power, then America as we know it is finished.

© 2014 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.
240  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: North Africa, Mali, the Magreb on: March 27, 2014, 02:31:05 PM
http://www.michaelyon-online.com/french-army-information-about-mali-suicide-attacks.htm
241  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Ukraine on: March 27, 2014, 02:17:36 PM
Russia Likely Isn't Done
This just in: Russia may not stop with annexing Crimea. A new U.S. intelligence report indicates that Russia may seek to takeover a corridor in Ukraine connecting Russia with Crimea. As one official put it, the assessment is "that the likelihood of a further Russian incursion is more probable than it was previously thought to be." There are tens of thousands of Russian troops amassing at the border with Ukraine, and, while Moscow insists that's for "training exercises," it's clearly meant at the very least to rattle Ukraine and the West. The whole thing even provoked Barack Obama to say something very un-Obama-like. He chastised fellow NATO members for cutting defense spending, saying, "The situation in Ukraine reminds us that our freedom isn't free, and we've got to be willing to pay for the assets, the personnel, the training to make sure we have a credible NATO force and an effective deterrent force." Surely he was reading from the wrong teleprompter.


Patriot Post
242  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Corruption on: March 27, 2014, 02:12:32 PM
http://allenbwest.com/2014/03/another-day-another-case-democrat-corruption/
243  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington, General Orders, 1776 on: March 27, 2014, 02:09:33 PM
"We have therefore to resolve to conquer or die: Our won Country's Honor, all call upon us for vigorous and manly exertion, and if we now shamefully fail, we shall become infamous to the whole world. Let us therefore rely upon the goodness of the Cause, and the aid of the supreme Being, in whose hands Victory is, to animate and encourage us to great and noble Actions." --George Washington, General Orders, 1776
244  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Comparing Putin and Baraq on: March 26, 2014, 11:22:54 PM
A few of these are cheap shots but overall rather potent:

http://www.tomatobubble.com/putin_obama.html
245  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Anti-semitism at U. Mich. on: March 26, 2014, 09:14:30 PM
http://allenbwest.com/2014/03/anti-israel-groups-threaten-violence-shout-kike-dirty-jew-university-michigan/
246  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Blaze: Counter Terrorism Training Purge on: March 26, 2014, 05:48:43 PM
http://www.theblaze.com/blog/2014/03/26/a-detailed-look-at-the-purge-of-u-s-counter-terrorism-training-by-the-obama-administration/
247  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glen Beck: I told you so on: March 26, 2014, 01:06:59 PM
Interesting 14 minute clip on page at

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/03/25/is-this-glenn-becks-most-alarming-prediction-yet/

248  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson: repository of the ultimate powers, 1820 on: March 26, 2014, 12:13:53 PM
"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Charles Jarvis, 1820
249  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH Friedman" The morning after the morning after. on: March 26, 2014, 10:16:48 AM
One thing I learned covering the Middle East for many years is that there is “the morning after” and there is “the morning after the morning after.” Never confuse the two.

 The morning after a big event is when fools rush in and declare that someone’s victory or defeat in a single battle has “changed everything forever.” The morning after the morning after, the laws of gravity start to apply themselves; things often don’t look as good or as bad as you thought. And that brings me to Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea.

The morning after, he was the hero of Russia. Some moronic commentators here even expressed the wish that we had such a “decisive” leader. Well, let’s see what Putin looks like the morning after the morning after, say, in six months. I make no predictions, but I will point out this. Putin is challenging three of the most powerful forces on the planet all at once: human nature, Mother Nature and Moore’s Law. Good luck with that.

Putin’s seizure of Crimea certainly underscores the enduring power of geography in geopolitics. Russia is a continental country, stretching across a huge landmass, with few natural barriers to protect it. Every Kremlin leader — from the czars to the commissars to the crooks — has been obsessed about protecting Russia’s periphery from would-be invaders. Russia has legitimate security interests, but this episode is not about them.

 This recent Ukraine drama did not start with geography — with an outside power trying to get into Russia, as much as Putin wants to pretend that it did. This story started with people inside Russia’s orbit trying to get out. A large number of Ukrainians wanted to hitch their economic future to the European Union not to Putin’s Potemkin Eurasian Union. This story, at its core, was ignited and propelled by human nature — the enduring quest by people to realize a better future for themselves and their kids — not by geopolitics, or even that much nationalism. This is not an “invasion” story. This is an “Exodus” story.

 And no wonder. A recent article in Bloomberg Businessweek noted that, in 2012, G.D.P. per person in Ukraine was $6,394 — some 25 percent below its level of nearly a quarter-century earlier. But if you compare Ukraine with four of its former Communist neighbors to the west who joined the European Union — Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania — “the average G.D.P. per person in those nations is around $17,000.” Can you blame Ukrainians for wanting to join a different club?

 But Putin is also counting on the world doing nothing about Mother Nature, and Mother Nature taking that in stride. Some 70 percent of Russia’s exports are oil and gas, and they make up half of all state revenue. (When was the last time you bought something that was labeled “Made in Russia”?) Putin has basically bet his country’s economic present and future on hydrocarbons at a time when the chief economist of the International Energy Agency has declared that “about two-thirds of all proven reserves of oil, gas and coal will have to be left undeveloped if the world is to achieve the goal of limiting global warming at two degrees Celsius” since the Industrial Revolution. Crossing that two-degrees line, say climate scientists, will dramatically increase the likelihood of melting the Arctic, dangerous sea level rises, more disruptive superstorms and unmanageable climate change.


The former Saudi oil minister, Sheik Ahmed Zaki Yamani, once warned his OPEC colleagues something Putin should remember: “The Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stones.” It ended because we invented bronze tools, which were more productive. The hydrocarbon age will also have to end with a lot of oil, coal and gas left in the ground, replaced by cleaner forms of power generation, or Mother Nature will have her way with us. Putin is betting otherwise.




How do you say Moore’s Law in Russian? That’s the theorem posited by Gordon Moore, an Intel co-founder, that the processing power of microchips will double roughly every two years. Anyone following the clean power industry today can tell you that there is something of a Moore’s Law now at work around solar power, the price of which is falling so fast that more and more homes and even utilities are finding it as cheap to install as natural gas. Wind is on a similar trajectory, as is energy efficiency. China alone is on a track to be getting 15 percent of its total electricity production by 2020 from renewables, and it’s not stopping there. It can’t or its people can’t breathe. If America and Europe were to give even just a little more policy push now to renewables to reduce Putin’s oil income, these actions could pay dividends much sooner and bigger than people realize.

The legitimacy of China’s leaders today depends, in part, on their ability to make their country’s power system greener so their people can breathe. Putin’s legitimacy depends on keeping Russia and the world addicted to oil and gas. Whom do you want to bet on?

So, before we crown Putin the Time Person of the Year again, let’s wait and see how the morning after the morning after plays out.
250  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obama voter: Pet Care better than Obamacare on: March 26, 2014, 10:04:08 AM
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/26/opinion/why-im-jealous-of-my-dogs-insurance.html?emc=edit_th_20140326&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=49641193
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